Today marks International Women’s Day, which celebrates the achievements of women throughout the world. The day also highlights what more society must do to truly achieve gender equality. In honor of today, we interviewed a female leader who is renowned for both her e-discovery expertise and her leadership skills: Mary Mack.
As the executive director of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), Mary is mentor and friend to countless men and women in the legal tech space. For Stellar Women in e-Discovery, we caught up with Mary on why diversifying the e-discovery community is an uphill battle, how underrepresented groups can succeed in this competitive industry, and the importance of a formal mentor-mentee relationship.
Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)
Mary Rechtoris: Hello Stellar Women in e-Discovery fans. I’m Mary Rechtoris, part of Relativity’s Brand Programs team and one of your hosts of Stellar Women in e-Discovery. I am joined today by my cohost, April Runft.
April Runft: Hi listeners! Stellar Women in e-Discovery recognizes and celebrates female leaders making their mark in e-discovery. Throughout last year, we interviewed several candidates and turned this campaign into an Innovation Awards category.
This year, we're starting nominations early. Every nominee this year will be up for consideration for the Innovation Awards in the Stellar Women in e-Discovery category at Relativity Fest this October.
MR: If you know women who are stellar in the field and are breaking barriers, championing innovation, or paying it forward, please nominate them for our campaign.
Today, April and I are excited to welcome our first Stellar Women in e-Discovery candidate for 2019: Mary Mack. Mary is the executive director of the Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists, otherwise known as ACEDS. Mary, thanks so much for joining us today!
Mary Mack: Thank you, Mary and April. I’m extremely honored. It is so wonderful to see Relativity celebrating women. I was talking about being honored to be on this webinar. I was totally blown away to be chosen to give away the Stellar Women [in e-Discovery award] at Relativity Fest last year for your first recipient, Joy Murao. That was quite an event and an honor for me to do that, so thank you.
MR: We’re really excited to kick things off with you this year, Mary, and dive into your experience in e-discovery. Before we do that, I want to give some background for our listeners. Mary has written a ton of articles on trends shaping the field such as A Process of Illumination: The Practical Guide to Electronic Discovery, which Mary published in 2004. Thinking back on how the industry has evolved over the years, what makes you excited to be a part of e-discovery right now?
MM: It's interesting. Back in 2000 when I moved from more classical IT into e-discovery, I thought it would be a five-year gig. I thought that the larger players like the Microsofts [and] Oracles of the world would bake e-discovery into their products and e-discovery as a separate field would sort of disappear [because] the need wouldn't be there. Instead, I'm pushing 20 years in the industry now and there's no end in sight. For me, it's been the opportunity to have a very exciting career [where I am] always learning, always have something to do, and never look at my watch. And, you know you can really make an impact. I don't see that stopping. I see that just exploding more and more.
AR: Being that this episode will air on International Women's Day, why do you think that this day and celebrating the achievements of women are important?
MM: Well, I think it's always important to celebrate everybody's achievements, men and women. But historically in the law, I think if you take a look at the partnership tracks at law firms, Big Law in particular, women are not all that well represented. And some women collaborate and step back and don't take credit. So, I think it's important for those of us who are aware of women who are doing great things to amplify each other. That’s part of what Kaylee Walstad and I do at ACEDS: we amplify the contributions of others, including women, underrepresented groups, and our wonderful male friends as well.
MR: They’re included too. Everyone’s included.
AR: And on that note, one thing we have noted and really admired about ACEDS, like you said, is how you celebrate your members. We love seeing those notifications on social media when you’re celebrating someone who has passed an exam. That was one example we really admire about you guys.
MM: Thank you.
MR: So, Mary, you said you’ve been in the industry for about 20 years or so. How have you seen the industry make strides toward becoming more diverse and give women more of a seat at the table?
MM: I'd actually flip that on its head unfortunately. I think in the early days, it was easier for women and underrepresented groups to just dive in and go because e-discovery wasn't very well known. Lawyers were afraid of technology, technologists were afraid of lawyers, and those of us who could stand in the middle basically just had to raise our hand and we would get work thrown at us. On a percentage basis, we probably would have seen more diversity in the early days.
Now, the money is following; you see all the investments in the e-discovery companies and it’s a billion-dollar industry. From my perspective, I see the leadership tracks stratified a little bit more in a traditional sense. I think we need to work at the diversity that was so wonderful in the beginning and bring that forward. You may see something different, though, than I do.
MR: You’re more in the weeds so I think your perspective is probably spot on, Mary. I think that makes a ton of sense. When it’s not well known, you’re given a lot more opportunities. But, as e-discovery becomes more prestigious or renowned as an industry, it becomes harder to get to those top-level positions—which means diversity may be tapering off a little bit on that level.
AR: I want to turn to the topic of community building next. You and Kaylee are pros at this. I felt fortunate to be able to experience this—your leadership and your gift for this—firsthand. Last year, all three of us were attending the CLOC conference, which is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium in Las Vegas. Do you remember this?
MM: I do. We may have some pictures we may not want to see.
AR: You and Kaylee invited me to ride along with you guys and learn the ropes of attending an industry event. I really learned a lot about how you build new connections and catch up with your network. This really is my favorite memory from that conference. I learned so much from you guys about how to put out a welcoming vibe and put yourself out there to really connect with people. I'm wondering in your eyes, what's the difference between networking and community building, if there is one? And then, two-part question, why do you think networking gets such a bad name these days?
MM: So, for me, networking is a little bit more transactional. You hear about networking events where people just stand up, say who they are, say what they’re looking for, bring a bunch of business cards, and then in an hour or so, collect a whole bunch of cards and build your relationships from there, and the idea is like a sales focus. So, when you when you say that networking has a bad name, the traditional sense of networking has that connotation. But, for us, networking is a career builder. Kaylee and I focus on the whole person.
At CLOC, with you doing a ride-along with us, we had a booth [and] we had some people, so we could help you build some connections, give you warm introductions [to show] here's why you'd want to know this person.
And then we have this thing we call a guild dinner. It’s a beautiful dinner where guests are hand selected. It's one table and it's designed to be in a place that you can have conversations with the whole table. No selling occurs at this. The idea is that you get to know each other as human beings. What’s important from a family perspective? It’s not just a career or a sales perspective, but who are these people? What drives them? What are their passion projects and what other points of connection do you have beyond the commercial? Who needs help? That’s part of being a community is that some people are able to give help and some people need help and sometimes that switches over time. [It’s about] getting a group of people together that at the end are intertwined and interconnected in many different ways, not just the commercial way.
AR: I love how you put that simply of giving and asking for help. I think that is such a human way of explaining that. I love it.
MR: I’d like to dive a little deeper into networking, because I find that as you said, networking is crucial. It's a career builder. Everyone has to do it. And there's some people like April and my colleague, Tammie, who loves networking. She thrives on it. But, there’s others of us who might not be so jazzed about going to a networking event after work.
At Relativity Fest, you ran a very popular session about networking for introverts. We also ran it as a blog post. We will post that in the show notes for listeners in case you want to take a gander. Mary, can you share a few tips for those of us who might be a littler shyer or on the introverted side on how to successfully network?
MM: I absolutely can, and I’ll need to come out of the closet as an extrovert. We did this twice now at Relativity Fest. Our last one had people that you may not think of as introverts like George Socha, Judge Peck, Barb Bennett, David Greetham talking about how they as introverts basically get themselves ready and successfully network.
One thing to do is have a plan and have a wingman—on this podcast we should call it a wing person. It’s [about having] someone so you don’t need to go by yourself. At ACEDS events, we have something called the ACEDS Ambassador Program where people wear a button, and anybody can walk up and say: “I’m new here, can you introduce me to some folks?” Introverts like to wear those buttons because then people approach them, and they don’t have to do the approach, so that’s one thing.
The other is that that webinar had a whole lot of different tips: how to break into a group, how to tell if a group is closed or not, and while you're at events, how not to get liquid courage if you will. [It’s] probably not a good look at a business networking event, especially if you're nervous. You can ask the bartender for a soda and lime that looks like a mixed drink and you can still walk around the cocktail party. But now, you're ready to meet people and you don't oversell, and you don't overstay your welcome and you don’t do those kinds of things.
Mostly, I would say for introverts, it’s how to take care of yourself. Schedule some time before an event so you’re rested and ready for it and after the event, so you can recover from it. Extroverts like me, we get energy from these events. What I’ve experienced with many introverts is that those necessary evils, if you will, sometimes suck energy out. It does move your career forward, but it can still have an impact on you so be gentle with yourself afterwards.
AR: But don’t necessary let yourself off the hook, right? If you say: “Oh, I don’t like those.” Don’t just avoid them and think you’ll be fine.
MM: Well, you can avoid them, but it's an accelerant to your career to meet people. The more people you meet, I think it was Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, wrote a book. I can't remember exactly what the name of it is, but he talked about the weak ties. It's not like your first level connections that find you your next opportunity, whether it be a job or a commercial deal, or somebody to help you with a project that that's one of your passion projects. It's your weak ties, it’s the ones that are connections of connections. Say at Legaltech or CLOC, you can connect with an enormous number of people in a short amount of time. So, I think it's worth setting yourself up for success. And taking a deep breath. Find yourself an extrovert. You know Kaylee and I are always willing and many of our members are extroverts. Find an extrovert and have them be your wing person.
AR: I love the idea of the ACEDS buttons as a signal that this is somebody who will introduce you no questions asked. Such a great idea.
MM: Since we're on International Women's Day, it is also [important] if someone's having an issue in the event to have a person that they can go to that will find Kaylee or myself to resolve it. The program serves many purposes.
AR: Yes, a true community. Stemming from your own experience and on this networking topic, what advice might you give to women and other underrepresented groups who may be considering pursuing a career in legal tech, but they’re not established in the industry or may be starting over at ground level in terms of building their network?
MM: Get yourself a Twitter account, get a LinkedIn, and get good pictures for that. We have a webinar on starting up in social media on the ACEDS site. And I think we've done some posts on them that maybe we could include in the show notes. [Social media] can go on in the background of what you're doing.
The other thing I would do would be to find the events that appeal to you. If you're a tech person and are behind the scenes and don't have a lot of client contact but you're building queries, you may want to network in more of a hackathon setting where you can show off your technical prowess while you're meeting other people.
Underrepresented groups, women, I think, need to get certifications. This is this a bit self-serving because I'm executive director of a certifying organization, but I think certifications are really important. I know Relativity has certifications and I would say get some certifications under your belt. I’m certified not just in the e-discovery, but also in security. I've got my CISSP, in part, because it stops questions about your competence. Women and underrepresented groups sometimes are mistaken for the people who bring coffee, if you could even imagine, or who take notes during the meeting. They aren’t [often considered] the ones who are carrying the technical water or the legal water. So, I think those of us in those categories have to do more, have to be more, and have to have labels that show that we have accomplishments to stop those questions.
AR: I do love the point about [using] social media to break into a new industry. It's happened a couple of times, which I'm sure you've experienced this too, where I mutually follow somebody on Twitter and then meet them in person at an industry event. And it's just the coolest thing when that happens.
MM: It’s almost like you know them already.
MR: I always go: “I know you from LinkedIn.”
AR: It’s powerful.
MR: It is. For the Stellar Women in e-Discovery campaign, what we are trying to do is really celebrate women who are mentors in the field and are looking to elevate the careers of others. As someone who has been a mentor in the industry, what do you find makes for a successful mentor-mentee relationship?
MM: For me, that it’s reciprocal. The mentee is generally somebody who is newer in the industry or younger. They are going to bring new eyes to situation, or perhaps a facility with social media, like the Instie.* For example, my grandson is on the Instie. [They can tell you about] things, as a mentor, that you might not know about because it's not a one-way relationship.
The other thing is both parties need to allocate time and make it an important thing. The mentor and the mentee, sometimes that will switch around, as I said because it’s reciprocal. Both need to be able to hear criticism in a constructive way, and then bring back the results. [For example:] I took your suggestion, and here's what happens, or if there's an introduction to somebody, I reached out to them, and we had a fabulous conversation. Or, I reached out to them, and I didn't hear from them. It’s about basically feeding back into your mentor-mentee relationship. There’s speed mentoring where you talk to somebody once, and then there's longer-term relationships. Know what you're signing up for: Is it a six-month mentoring gig, or is it for a particular purpose? Be intentional to your mentor about your request for mentoring. As a mentor, make sure you have time to take people's calls when they need it.
AR: Mary, controversial follow-up question here. What is your stance on whether to overtly make the ask for someone to serve as your mentor to have that clarity versus falling into the relationship naturally where both parties assume that is the relationship you have?
MM: Interesting. I think you can get the essential benefit of mentoring from people that are not formally your mentor, and you can ask people for advice or to hang out. There's somebody that we absolutely love. Kaylee and I have a person that we were pleased to meet, like you said, in person after being on social with them for quite a while. [Her name is] Sheila Grela in San Diego. I have never experienced a virtual mentoring arrangement, but she referred to me and to Kaylee as her “e-mentors.” She told us that we were her mentors on social and that was how we realized we were mentors.
I think being intentional and out loud will move you forward in a mentoring relationship. It's a very special thing. It's both fragile and strong at the same time. And to just fall into it could set the mentee up for disappointment. I would hate to see people, if they are that close to somebody that they want as a mentor, not make the ask. Most people will be honored and flattered. If they’re not, maybe they don’t have the time, but they are not the appropriate mentor for you at the time and maybe they could suggest someone else or you find somebody else who does have the time and will be looking out for your best interest.
AR: Thank you for that.
MR: Mary, this question has come up. I'm in a group here, RelWoW (Relativity Women of the Workplace), at Relativity. A few months back, we hosted a panel on mentorship and it seemed that with a lot of the panelists, the mentor-mentee relationship happened very organically. They were just very lucky to meet someone at their organization who could serve as that mentor. But what if there's nobody that you know, who could be a mentor? How do you go about finding someone, whether that's within your organization, or maybe in a completely different industry?
MM: Certainly. At ACEDS, we’ve had webinars on mentoring and people have sent us notes and we pair people together. Inside your own organization, I think you need to look for the people who have the leadership style, technical chops, sales ability, or whatever else you want to emulate. You need to identify that yourself. Then, I would start slow with maybe a coffee or lunch or just a phone call. Ask them about their experience, like how did you get to be such a great salesperson? How did you learn how to scale your SQL queries? It depends on what it is that you want to be mentored about. Start that conversation and then build into it, depending on whether you resonate with that person or not, whether the conversation feels forced, whether it just flows.
I do get that through life you will have mentors appear for you that you don't ask for. You don't have a formal, an out-loud mentor relationship but you learn from them and you stalk them a little bit—watch what they're doing all the time, read all their stuff and all that. Mentors can open a lot of doors for their mentees and if it's not an out loud relationship, that piece might not happen. When something new comes up, that person may not know that this would be a great step for you because they [don’t] know where you're growing, where you sit, and where you should stretch. I totally respect the ones that come up organically, but I would just suggest taking that extra step.
MR: Even if you think it's awkward. I would be super flattered if someone asked me to be a mentor. Having that conversation is super helpful.
MM: In other words, you two are offering to be mentors for people who might want to break into podcasting?
MR: Absolutely. This is our first go at the professional microphones, but we would be down to share what we know for far.
MM: You see? Not that many people are doing podcasting and that’s just one of the things you can mentor on.
MR: Mary, this was so much fun. It was great talking with you and learning about your career and everything. Thank you so much for joining April and me today.
MM: Thank you so much for this wonderful honor and happy International Women’s Day to everybody.
AR: Thank you so much. Closing here, listeners, thank you for tuning it. Please keep nominating people you know in the industry doing great things.
MR: Something new that we’re doing and are very excited about is getting all of our past interviews into a podcast format. You’re able to download those in Apple Podcasts in iTunes or wherever else you get your daily dost of podcasts. Please subscribe to the Stellar Women in e-Discovery podcast so you don’t miss the latest episode. And with that, for Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I’m Mary Rechtoris.
AR: And I’m April Runft, signing off.
*Please note, we are not of the Gen Z generation and are unaware of the spelling on "Instie," a nickname for Instagram. Please defer to Mary Mack’s grandson for additional context.